BSc Psychology / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Understanding Dementia: Brain and Behaviour

Course unit fact file
Unit code PSYC31242
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Division of Psychology and Mental Health
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course will explore dementia in terms of its behavioural characteristics and brain bases.  It will involve research from neuropsychology and neuroscience.  The primary forms of dementia will be explored, as will the challenges faced in differential diagnosis and the discrimination between healthy ageing and the onset of dementia. The role of different types of brain scanning in dementia research and clinical management will be discussed, as will issues relating to treatment and prevention.


Building on previous knowledge (recommended PSYC21022) the unit aims to:

- Introduce students to different types of dementia and current issues in dementia research

- Illustrate the relationships between the neural and cognitive aspects of dementia

- Show how dementia research can increase our understanding of perception and cognition

- Demonstrate how neuroscientific research leads to better treatments for dementia patients

- Enable students’ discussion and evaluation of contemporary research, via seminars and reading groups.

Teaching and learning methods

This unit will be delivered via lectures and seminars.

Knowledge and understanding

Demonstrate an understanding of current thinking in relation to cognition and behaviour in dementia; Understand current knowledge in relation to the brain changes accompanying dementia; Understand the critical challenges faced in the study and treatement of dementia; Gain knowledge of several topics relating brain and behaviour in the context of dementia

Intellectual skills

Critically evaluate the methods used to investigate dementia; Critically analyse how neuropsychological data is used to explore differential diagnosis in dementia; Appreciate how an understanding of cognitive and brain changes can help the development of treatment and promote prevention of dementia

Practical skills

Evaluate research design and methodology in a research paper; Discuss empirical findings with others within a small group context

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Independently gather and organise primary research evidence from relevant databases; Present understanding of a specific area within a presentation and an essay; Synthesise information; Summarise theories and evidence; Critically evaluate research; Work effectively within groups; Communicate effectively both orally and in writing; Present concise and persuasive arguments

Assessment methods

50% coursework and 50% exam.

Feedback methods

Essay - Feedback will be provided on the coursework essay before the exam.

Exam - Students will receive a grade and can request a summary of their feedback after the exam board.   

Recommended reading

There will not be a single recommended text book as the core course material will be recent journal articles. Some examples of references covered in the course:

Gorno-Tempini, M.L., et al., (2011).  Classification of primary progressive aphasia and its variants. Neurology, 76, 1006-1014.

Hodges, J.R., & Patterson, K. (2007).  Semantic dementia: A unique clinicopathological syndrome.  Lancet Neurology, 6, 1004-1014.

Metzler-Baddeley, C. (2007). A review of cognitive impairments in Dementia with Lewy Bodies relative to Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease with dementia. Cortex, 43, 583-600.

Piguet, O., Hornberger, M., Mioshi, E., & Hodges, J.R. (2011). Behavioural-variant frontotemporal dementia: Diagnosis, clinical staging, and management.  Lancet Neurology, 10, 162-172.

DeCarli, C. (2003). Mild cognitive impairment: prevalence, prognosis, aetiology, and treatment. Lancet Neurololgy, 2, 15–21.

Collie, A., & Maruff, P. (2000). The neuropsychology of preclinical Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 24(3), 365-74.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 154

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Anna Woollams Unit coordinator

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